Election Section

Care for a Little Redevelopment in Your Area?

Friday July 23, 2004

The Berkeley City Council also serves as the Berkeley Redevelopment Agency (BRA). It is scheduled to meet quarterly on the second Tuesday of the month, at 6:30 p.m. But meetings are subject to change, and there have been lots of changes since Tom Bates became mayor. 

Thick packets of agenda material are delivered to the meeting—too late to be read. Meeting times are changed. All part of the strategic planning by Mayor Bates and the powers that be running our city. They obviously do not want their agenda scrutinized by the public. 

In his campaign for mayor, Tom Bates stated education was his priority. After his election, he told West Berkeley neighbors seeking his help to save their schools that his priority was getting Berkeley developed. And apparently also redeveloped... 

The following is from the transcript of the BRA meeting held Tuesday, June 22, 2004 at 6:30 p.m. The meeting lasted seven minutes. 

After roll call, Councilmember Linda Maio moved the Action Items to the Consent Calendar. These items were: 

• Five year Implementation Plan relative to Savo Island Project Area. 

• Redevelopment Agency Budget for Fiscal Year 2005. 

Maio then moved the Consent Calendar for approval and it passed unanimously, with Dona Spring absent. (This part of the meeting took one minute, although the Redevelopment Agenda packet contained over 150 pages of complex information and involved millions of dollars!) 

Then Mayor Bates said, “I have one quick question. I was kind of surprised to see that Savo Island was still a Redevelopment Agency. My neighbors and myself had wanted to establish a redevelopment area on south Shattuck, and that never happened. The city said there wasn’t enough room. Why can’t we have ‘pocket redevelopment agencies’ if we so choose?” 

Planning Department Director Dan Marks answered; “I’m not a redevelopment expert, but technically I believe you can have small redevelopment areas.” 

Mayor Bates: “Is it possible to have blighted properties that could be determined to be part of the Redevelopment Agency?” 

City Manager Phil Kamlarz: “Well, to create a Redevelopment Agency you have to have certain findings and blight is the major finding. So you can have small redevelopment areas, but when we looked at the South Berkeley area last time, because of the new formulas in the distribution of the tax increment, it didn’t generate that much revenue for reason to do it.” 

Mayor Bates: “But we’re not trying to generate revenue. We’re trying to generate good planning. I also should mention, I live at least two and one half blocks away from Telegraph, so I don’t think I’m in conflict.” 

Linda Maio seemed disturbed by Bates’ comment and interjected: “Well, in any case you can just talk generally, anyway.” 

Mayor Bates: “I’m interested in the specifics because if you look at these properties downtown, you look at properties that are problem properties. And we’re not trying to generate revenue, we’re trying to improve them, and ensure that they are used properly. So... I was very disappointed that that got dropped and I would like to have a examination of that issue. In other words, I’m just talking about properties that are clearly blighted, because it has to meet the definition of blighted. I’d say from Derby to Carleton, and the East side of Parker Street. Is that possible to have a redevelopment area there? Also, is it possible to have it on some of these other blighted properties on University and other areas? Is it possible for us to do that? Maybe you can get back to us.” 

Iris Starr, BRA staff: “Let us come back to you on that.” 

Mayor Bates: “In this town a lot of people are totally against redevelopment, but I don’t think they understand the opportunities, the tool this is. And my neighbors, when they understood this, were in favor of it because what it does is it protects the neighborhoods. Because once you get a plan adopted, you can’t vary from that plan and you can ensure that you get certain parameters like certain height, certain bulk, and certain characteristics that you can insist on. So with that I will ask you to present that to us at our next Redevelopment Agency meeting. Is there a motion to adjourn?” 

Worthington seconds, motion passes. (Maio and Breland were absent for the vote.) 

Mr. Mayor, the reason why a lot of people are totally against redevelopment is that the most affected neighbors have been horrified by the height, bulk and characteristics that your City Council majority is allowing and continues to allow developers to get away with. Most folks have no clue about the monstrosities planned but not yet built.